Monday, April 30, 2012

Facing Challenges vs. THE APOCALYPSE

 I've spent some time here observing and ruminating on the challenges we face, particularly energy supplies (peak oil, fracking etc.) and climate change.  The flip side to denying these issues is the apocalyptic doomers who use these issues to declare the imminent end of civilization of human extinction.  I've always felt the doomeres are as much a problem in the denialists, so I was pleased to see this article by Matthew Gross and Mel Gilles in The Atlantic, How Apocalyptic Thinking Prevents Us from Taking Political Action:
How to make sense of it all? After all, not every scenario can be an apocalyptic threat to our way of life -- can it? For many, the tendency is to dismiss all the potential crises we are facing as overblown: perhaps cap and trade is just a smoke screen designed to earn Al Gore billions from his clean-energy investments; perhaps terrorism is just an excuse to increase the power and reach of the government. For others, the panoply of potential disasters becomes overwhelming, leading to a distorted and paranoid vision of reality and the threats facing our world -- as seen on shows like Doomsday Preppers. Will an epidemic wipe out humanity, or could a meteor destroy all life on earth? By the time you're done watching Armageddon Week on the History Channel, even a rapid reversal of the world's magnetic poles might seem terrifyingly likely and imminent.
Gross and Gilles continue:
The danger of the media's conflation of apocalyptic scenarios is that it leads us to believe that our existential threats come exclusively from events that are beyond our control and that await us in the future -- and that a moment of universal recognition of such threats will be obvious to everyone when they arrive. No one, after all, would ever confuse a meteor barreling toward Earth as anything other than apocalyptic. Yet tangled up in such Hollywood scenarios and sci-fi nightmares are actual threats like global warming that aren't arriving in an instant of universal recognition; instead, they are arriving amid much denial and continued partisan debate.
For example, annual climate-related disasters such as droughts, storms, and floods rose dramatically during the last decade, increasing an average 75 percent compared to the 1990s -- just as many climate models predicted they would if global warming were left unchecked. Yet this rise in natural disasters hasn't produced a moment of universal recognition of the dangers of climate change; instead, belief in climate change is actually on the decline as we adjust to the "new normal" of ever-weirder weather or convince ourselves that our perception of this increased frequency is a magnifying trick of more readily available cable and Internet coverage.

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